Monday, September 5, 2016

Let’s Get Worked Up Over Work

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are obviously "bushed"
after a hard day of work at Walt Disney World.
“Whistle While You Work….” What a fun, lilting tune for the Seven Dwarfs marching off to the mines every day in the Walt Disney classic, “Snow White.” With a merry “Hi, ho,” Doc, Sleepy, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy. Grumpy and Happy would say good-bye to their lovely, raven-haired guest on their way to harvest precious stones.

What did the dwarfs do with the gems – take them to their friendly local gemologist, collect them for an annual jewelers’ convention, sell them on eBay? Who knows? But they seemed to enjoy their work.

This being Labor Day in the USA, it’s a time most of us take the day off (ironically) to celebrate the virtues of honest work. But it seems rather than celebrating, what we need to be doing is remembering or recapturing those virtues, because many people seem intent on avoiding work as much as possible. Unwilling employment is surpassing unemployment as the greater dilemma.

Recently I heard about a major manufacturer in our region that’s having a very hard time recruiting and replacing employees, and it employs thousands in its plants. Many job applicants have virtually no work history, and even after multiple interviews and thorough screening, an alarming percentage quit the same day they’re hired and start to work, or soon afterward. Apparently, working isn’t their “thing.”

Whatever happened to the old-fashioned “work ethic”?

In some quarters there’s a major push to drastically raise the minimum wage so that unskilled, low-responsibility workers at fast-food restaurants, cafes and other places can receive a “living wage.” Yet studies indicate that in more than a few cases, when hourly pay increases, workers willingly – and eagerly – reduce the number of hours they want to work. I heard a rumor that they’re unionizing and will strike, demanding payday everyday and no work on payday.

One of the issues surrounding immigration, and illegal immigrants, is the reality that men and women coming into the country from less affluent lands are willing to perform jobs that many able-bodied individuals regard as sheer drudgery and beneath their station.

Not being a sociologist or politician, I’m not about to suggest solutions to such perplexities. But I do think it wouldn’t hurt to revisit the purpose and meaning of work.

Of course, work is hardly a new idea. It’s not something birthed during the Industrial Revolution. It was God’s idea, from the very start.

In the first chapter of Genesis, He commanded the first man and woman, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground…. I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food…” (Genesis 1:28-29).

Some theologians refer to this as the “cultural mandate,” the first job description for humankind. Unfortunately, following the disobedience of Adam and Eve in eating from the one tree forbidden to them, one of the consequences was that work became hard. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you…. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…” (Genesis 3:17-19).

Today, most of us don’t make our living from the ground. But the painful toil is still there, along with “thorns and thistles” in many forms. As a result, instead of awakening with a hearty “Good morning, Lord!”, we grumble instead, “Good Lord, morning!”

But even conceding that work is difficult, the fact God ordained it makes it sacred and a worthwhile pursuit. The Bible says much about the merits of hard work – along with the perils of laziness and lack of initiative. Here’s a sampling of what’s found just in the book of Proverbs:

-        “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4).
-        “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment” (Proverbs 12:11).
-        “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23).
-        “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on” (Proverbs 16:26).
-        “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29).

It’s clear God intends for us to work and for our labors to be rewarding, challenging as they may be at times. But there’s one other divine purpose behind work: It serves as a way of worshipping our Creator. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

So if you have a holiday today, enjoy the time off. Relax. Refresh. Then when tomorrow comes, get to work!

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